WASHINGTON (Apr. 16)
President Carter and Premier Menachem Begin of Israel ended their two days of talks on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza today with remarks which indicated that progress has been made toward an agreement between Israel and Egypt.
With Begin at his side, Carter told reporters in the White House Rose Garden that the talks were “constructive and very productive between myself and Prime Minister Begin. I wish to particularly emphasize the issues are being resolved.”
Carter announced that President Anwar, Sadat of Egypt has agreed to Begin’s proposal that during the next 40 days the autonomy talks be divided equally in sessions in Tel Aviv and Alexandria between Israel and Egypt with the U.S. as a full partner in a “concerted effort” to reach the “goal” of an agreement by the May 26 target date. “We made good progress toward that goal,” Carter said.
Begin said, “I am absolutely truthful” in saying that “we had very good talks — thanks to the atmosphere created by President Carter in the Cabinet room and in our private talks. I think we made real good progress.” The Premier also stated that the autonomy negotiations will be conducted “daily, almost hourly. There is a hope indeed we may reach the goal of May 26.
Begin expressed “our deep friendship to the people of the United States for their role in world affairs.” He said he “hoped” the American hostages in Teheran would be released soon. He urged “all men for liberty to stand up for it” and said “American-Israeli relations are important from this point of view.”
NO PRESSURE, NO CONFRONTATION
Before entering the White House for their final session this morning, Begin remarked to Israeli reporters, “There has been no pressure and no confrontation. Your predictions have proven wrong.”
According to reliable sources, the issue of Jewish settlements on the West Bank was not raised, at least up to the time of their final meeting. On the issue of Jerusalem, Carter took the some position he has taken publicly in the past — that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city. But he did not specify under whose sovereignty. Sadat said here after his meetings with Carter last week that East Jerusalem should be under Arab sovereignty. Begin insists that the undivided city is the “eternal capital” of Israel.
LIFELINES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN DEADLINES
At a White House dinner last night attended by 180 persons — many of them Jewish Democrats favorable to Carter’s re-election — Begin praised the President in a 25-minute discourse. He also indicated that it was not important if Egypt and Israel continued their negotiations over autonomy beyond the May 26 target date. “The sky is not on our heads,” Begin said. “We relate to lifelines, not deadlines. We shall continue the negotiations until we reach agreement.”
At the dinner last night, Rep. Clement Zablocki (D. Wisc.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was asked by a reporter if Begin’s “uncompromising position” was harmful to U.S.-Israel relations. Zablocki, who is close to the State Department’s views on the Arab-Israeli conflict, replied, “There is no question” that “the American public is becoming very concerned about what they perceive as Prime Minister Begin’s intransigence.” Begin has maintained, during his current visit to the U.S., that the Camp David accords must be adhered to strictly by all parties.
Carter drew laughter from the dinner guests when he observed that when he and Begin agree “we both prosper.” The President noted that “lately, for instance, my own positions have caused him some trouble as you may have noticed a month or so ago on the West Bank of the Jordan. And I might say that our disagreements also caused me some trouble on the east bank of the Hudson River.”